Many people inside the Washington Beltway will be pouring through President Barack Obama’s Fiscal 2013 budget proposal to find out what he proposes to cut, what initiatives he plans to invest in and what new policies he might propose. It seems likely that it will largely be a replay of his recommendations last fall to the “supercommittee” on deficit reduction, with some extra short-term investments. His prior recommendations did not address the huge structural deficits facing this country.
The one thing, unfortunately, that Washington politicians seem to agree on is that it’s highly unlikely that anything significant will be done before the November elections. But what should disturb us even more is that we don’t really have a federal budget.
Every U.S. family understands the importance of a budget. But apparently Washington does not. The truth is, Congress has the legal responsibility to pass an annual budget, and the president’s budget holds no legal authority.
Yet Congress has not passed a concurrent budget resolution in more than 1,000 days and counting. Congress also has a constitutional responsibility to pass annual spending bills. Yet Congress has only passed spending bills on time four times since 1952. The last time Congress passed both a concurrent budget resolution and all required spending bills on time was 1996.
It gets worse. Even when Congress does pass a budget and required spending bills, they only control about 38 percent of total federal spending — and that percentage is declining. The rest is “mandatory” spending, and it’s on autopilot — largely Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on our national debt.
Can you imagine a family or business creating a budget that only controls 38 percent of their spending? They would never consider that a true budget — and neither should our federal leaders. It’s not surprising that we have a national debt of more than $15 trillion and climbing.
Americans understand how irrational this is. It’s a major reason why the “No Budget, No Pay” proposal pushed by No Labels is gaining support. We need our leaders to get serious about federal financial matters — and it starts by having a timely and responsible budget.
Americans can do their part by debunking the myth that our country has a real budget. We’re doing our part at the Comeback America Initiative by inaugurating a “Myth of the Month” video series that reveals the truth about our country’s fiscal mess—and the myth this month is that America has a federal budget.
Please view and share this video.
By arming ourselves with all the facts, we can hold our elected officials accountable and demand the leadership our country desperately needs.
David M. Walker is the former comptroller general, and the founder and chief executive officer of the Comeback America Initiative.